This is a rewrite from a previous story published here last week. I used all of the suggestions readers gave me to try and beef up the story a bit so that it felt more finished than before. If you’ve read the previous story, give this one a read and let me know if you think this one is an improvement. If you haven’t read the previous story, I invite you to do so now. Thanks in advance.
“If I spit, they will take my spit and frame it as great art!” Jeannine shrieked, throwing her hands up toward the ceiling.
“Jeannie,” Damion Gregory sighed, his head throbbing as though forty percussionists were in there rehearsing Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture with real cannons, “It’s one thing to design an album cover. It’s quite another to use that design as cover art.” He gestured to the drawing she’d presented him with. “This is a design concept. It’s not cover art. It looks like a four-year-old drew it. I mean, I don’t even know what half of this is.”
“What do you know?” Jeannine screamed, throwing herself back around the room again, “You’re just our manager! What do you know about art?”
“Jeannie,” Damion replied, doing his best to be patient, “for Pete’s sake, calm down. It’s only been a month since Simplicity of Grace went multi-platinum for the first time. You’ve hit number one charts world-wide and with the first, second and third singles out of your very first album. Even Michael Jackson never did that! I appreciate the fact that you came up with the concept for the first album cover. It was sheer genius and I’m sure that more than half the album sales were solely by people who were interested in the cover.”
Damion paused, remembering that album cover. When Jeannine had given him her drawing for that cover, he’d been strangely electrified by it. That drawing hadn’t been much better than this one, but Jeannine hadn’t been as pushy then, either. In the end, she’d agreed to let him hire a top notch photographer to take pictures of the band posed to match the concept she’d drawn. Then a better artist had been hired to recreate the background Jeannine had drawn. The end result had looked very much like the members of Simplicity of Grace were floating up from the depths of the ocean, with Jeannine, the band’s lead singer, almost at the surface, her head tipped back as if she was just about to emerge from the water. The title the album had been given was Emergence, to match the idea represented by that cover. He still wasn’t sure what it was about that cover that had gotten such a huge response.
“You can’t say I don’t know anything about art” he continued, rubbing his throbbing temples, “because I believed in you and in your band. Please, don’t ask me to give this thing to a publisher as an album cover. I… we… will be laughingstocks.”
“I can’t believe you, Damion!” Jeannine moaned, flopping down on his overstuffed leather sofa and throwing one booted foot over the armrest. “You say you believed in us, but you won’t do what I ask? How is that believing, Damion? How?”
“Listen, Jeannine Franklin,” Damion whispered through gritted teeth, outrage stealing the volume from his voice, “I am your manager, not your ‘yes man.’ If that’s what you want, hire someone else. I have other things to do than sit here and listen to you throw a temper tantrum because I won’t give your little crayon doodle to a music company to use as cover art for your next album.” He seized the drawing and tossed it in Jeannine’s direction. It fluttered gently to the floor, landing lightly atop Damion’s $500 carpet. “Do you understand? You’re not Michael Jackson. Your band isn’t the Beatles. You can’t just walk in here like some kind of prima donna and expect me to think that every idea you have is going to be golden. You don’t pay me enough for that.”
Somewhere in the middle of this speech, Jeannine’s mouth had dropped open. With her ridiculously red lipstick and aqua-colored hair, she looked like something from the fish market instead of the megastar she was supposed to be. Damion fully expected her to start yelling again, cliché things like, “You can’t talk to me like that,” or “How dare you question my genius?” He braced himself.
“You’re right,” Jeannine replied, reaching for the fallen drawing.
“What?” Damion blinked, taken aback.
Jeannine sighed, looking wistfully at the drawing. “My first thought while you were talking,” she said, sitting properly on the sofa now, “was that you sound like my mother. Then I thought, if my mother was here, she wouldn’t put up with this from me, either. It’s not how she raised me at all. So I looked at the drawing again and I realized that you’re right. It’s not good enough for the cover. What if we used it for the art you see beneath the disc, like last time, right? Then, maybe, you could hire those same people you got for Emergence to make this work?” She held the drawing up for a second inspection.
Damion smiled. “We could do that,” he agreed in hesitant tones, leaning forward, “provided you’re willing to explain your drawing to me a bit more.”
Jeannine nodded, her face taking on something like a sheepish grin.
“Now,” Damion added, pulling his desk calendar toward him, “how soon can you and the band be in the studio? Your record company is breathing down my neck. They want your next album yesterday.”
Jeannine blinked. “Oh, yeah. I almost forgot.” She fished in her bag and brought out a small, personal recorder. Getting up from the sofa, she placed the recorder and the drawing on Damion’s desk.
“What’s this?” Damion asked, picking up the recorder.
“Just some songs Jake and I wrote,” she replied, seating herself in the chair across from Damion. Jake was the band’s lead guitarist and the genius behind the music of Simplicity of Grace. Without him, Jeannine was just a gifted poet. “Why don’t you give them a listen. If you like what you hear, we can be in the studio as early as tomorrow morning, if you like.”
“Okay,” Damion grinned, “who are you and what have you done with my client?”
Jeannine laughed. “This is your client,” she replied, grinning back. “It was that other person who was the stranger.”
Damion smiled. Now they were getting somewhere.